Workers’ Comp: What Is Third-Party Liability?

In Ohio, as in most other states, the workers’ compensation system is a compromise between employers and workers. By design, injured workers are entitled to receive compensation for their workplace injuries without having to file a lawsuit or prove fault. Conversely, employers are protected from employee lawsuits in exchange for providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

The latter concept is known as the “exclusive remedy” provision. Because workers’ compensation is available, injured employees must rely on it as the exclusive remedy for their injuries and are barred from suing their employer. That being said, some workers who are injured on the job have an additional option for compensation: a third-party liability claim.

The exclusive remedy provision bars you from suing your own employer (or others who work for the company) for workplace injuries. But if your on-the-job injuries were caused or exacerbated by a negligent third party, you can sue that third party for damages in addition to seeking workers’ compensation benefits.

Examples of Third-Party Claims

Here are some scenarios that could lead to a third-party liability claim:

Example 1: You are a commercial driver driving an airport shuttle for a hotel. While working one day, you are struck by a drunk driver and severely injured. You could sue the drunk driver for negligence.

Example 2: You work in an office, and the office is cleaned by an independent company contracted by your employer. After mopping the bathroom floor one day, a janitor for the cleaning company leaves the floor wet and does not post a “wet floor” warning sign. You slip and fall in the bathroom, leading to a traumatic brain injury. The cleaning company could potentially be sued for negligence because they are an independent third party.

Example 3: You work on a construction site, and the project you are working on requires the use of a tower crane. The crane is owned and serviced by an independent company, and it was constructed on site by the company. One day, the crane collapses, seriously injuring you and several others. You can likely hold the crane company liable for your injuries.

Pursuing Benefits and Damages

Workers’ compensation is an important benefit, but it may not completely cover the costs of your injuries, lost wages and other financial losses. But if your injuries were caused by a negligent third party, you can file a lawsuit against that party while also collecting workers’ compensation benefits.

In both cases, it can be very helpful to work with an experienced personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney like those at our firm.